The cost of violating anti-spam laws is rising. When the State of Illinois
passed its anti-spam law in 1999, it provided for a fine of $10 per instance,
up to a total of $25,000 per day, for spammers who continued to send spam
after receiving a desist request. That law went into effect on January
1, 2000, according to spamlaws.com.
On Thursday, August 1, 2002, Ohio’s Governor Bob Taft signed into law the
Bill 8, sponsored by state Senator Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster). It allows e-mail
recipients to sue for $100 per e-mail, up to $50,000, plus attorney’s fees,
court costs, and other expenses. The bill will go into effect 90 days after
it is placed in state records, probably on October 31, 2002.
The law also allows ISPs to sue. It actually allows “an electronic mail service
provider whose authority or policy has been contravened” to sue as long
as it has posted its polices. The law says, “notice of these policies shall
be deemed sufficient if an electronic mail service provider maintains an easily
accessible web page containing its policies regarding electronic mail advertisements
and can demonstrate that notice was supplied via electronic means between the
sending and receiving computers.”
The law provides for damages up to $50,000 for accidental violations, and
up to $500,000 for “willful or knowing” violations.
“This bill will allow service providers to go after hardcore spammers,” said
Senator Amstutz. “These e-mails often involve get-rich-quick schemes, pornography,
and other undesirable messages that frustrate consumers and invade their privacy.
Ohio is taking an approach similar to that of 17 other states to give our consumers
additional tools to protect themselves.”
However, spam law cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute because most
of the evidence is easy to destroy, because spam businesses usually operate
under false names, and because spam messages are usually sent with altered or
fake headers. Spammers are difficult to identify and frequently fail to show
up in court.
For example, TidBITS,
a service for Macintosh users, leveraged spam laws in Washington to shut
down and sue a spam business. After winning its case when the defendant
failed to show up in court, TidBITS attempted to collect damages. But
this proved to be more costly than collections—the lawsuit cost TidBITS
$3,000 and damages were never collected.
Nevertheless, the Ohio law is a positive action in the war on spam, and the
scams that often ride it. If you’re wondering why your state does not have an
anti-spam law that is as ISP-aware as Ohio’s, look no farther than your local
ISP association. The Ohio Internet Service Providers
Association (OISPA) claims 72 ISP members.
This article was originally published by sister site, ISP-Planet.